A CARTEL in Mberengwa led by Zanu PF aspiring MP for the constituency and gold baron Tinashe “Goga” Shumba has angered the community by invading Janasi Mountain, which is considered sacred, in search of gold, lithium, iron ore, antimony, emeralds and diamonds, without consulting the local community.
Villagers also believe the cartel does not have an environmental impact assessment (EIA) certificate.
The NewsHawks has established that the group, which also includes foreign nationals, arrived at the mountain last week with heavy machinery including front-end loaders, explosives, drilling machines and other heavy earthmoving equipment.
They are blasting sections of the mountain. Janasi Mountain is sacred to the Zimi Machingamidze branch of the ruling clan of Chief Sadiki and several of their ancestors are buried there.
It is protected by customary laws from being desecrated. Villagers say the mining activities have desecrated the graves. In one of the photos obtained by this publication, Shumba’s white Toyota Hilux double cab is caught on camera while parked beside a front-end loader gathering ore mixed with red soil on site.
Other photos show deep gullies and trenches that have already been left open at the foot of the mountain while other pictures show that vegetation has been cleared. Takavafira Zhou, who is the Mberengwa Lithium Community Development Group secretary, said the developments have angered the local community.
“They do not have papers (Mines ministry permit and environmental impact assesment). They have not engaged local community. They are using political muscle of belonging to Zanu PF. As people of Mberengwa, we are worried about cartels intruding into Mberengwa that start to mine gold, lithium, platinum, chrome, emerald, copper, tantalite antimony, lime etc without engaging local communities and carrying out an EIA.
“We are not against exploitation of mineral resources of Mberengwa, but against plunder, looting, wrecking and siphoning of natural resources without environmental and cultural considerations of host communities, let alone without any promises of dividends,” he said.
Benson Bhasera, the Midlands manager or the Environmental Management Agency confirmed to The NewsHawks in an interview that no EIA had been issued to any company or individual to conduct mining operations at Janasi Mountain.
“What I can tell you is that there is a lot of anarchy in the areas of Mberengwa, especially in wards that cut off the Midlands province with Masvingo. As for any operations at Janasi Mountain, we have not issued any EIA. Our officer is going to be investigating on what is happening there,” he said.
According to section 97 of the Environmental Management Act, mining companies are required to undertake an EIA and apply for an EIA certificate from the Environmental Management Act.
An EIA systematically examines both beneficial and adverse impacts of the proposed project over and above the prevailing conditions and ensure that these combined impacts are taken into account during project design. Zhou, who is also the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president, hinted that there could be an upheaval in Mberengwa arising from the plunder of the sacred Janasi Mountain.
“The people of Mberengwa may be forced by circumstances to organise and collectively use any means necessary to stop environmental terrorism currently ensuing at Mount Janasi. We must be consulted right from the initial phase of any mining activities irrespective of political connections of those involved.
“Right now Mberengwa has nothing to show for its wealth of natural resources and it is unacceptable,” he said. When contacted for comment, Shumba evaded questions.
“I am in a meeting but I can hear you since I have already answered the phone,” he said. Upon being asked on the issue, he then said: “Let me call you after the meeting.”
He later said he was not involved in any mining activities. Villagers from around Mt Janasi who spoke to The NewsHawks said the mining activities were disrespectful of the community.
“If it was a genuine mining project, we would see even proper structures like cabins and fencing of the area happening, but there is nothing like that. It’s just strange people who have come with Shumba, invading the place and drilling all over.
“How can you have the audacity to drill on graves just to look for some minerals? It is un – heard of in our culture and history,” said one villager, Trust Mumbure. Another villager, Mercy Ngorimbe, said the haphazard mining happening on the mountain will have a bad bearing on both livestock, wildlife and humans.
“Besides desecration of the sacred mountain, wildlife is likely going to run away into our fields and homes which will increase our conflict with them. On the other hand, our livestock are going to be trapped in those pits, including some villagers. It’s a big crisis that has come on our land,” she said.
There has been cases of violations of customary laws that protect ancestral land for locals in the past. In March 2021, villagers in the Dinde area of Hwange district faced a similar predicament when they faced eviction to pave for a planned coal-mining project by Chinese-owned Beifa Investment Company that kicked off with the drilling of graves as part of its prospecting activities.
The dispute attracted the interest of the Centre for Natural Resources Governance (CNRG), a civil society advocacy group, as well as the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) who instituted legal action to stop the eviction of the villagers. Dinde is home to thousands of people from the Nambya and Tonga ethnic communities.
Whange Central legislator Daniel Molokele (CCC) had to wade into the land dispute and the decision to displace the villagers was rescinded. The government also came under the spot – light for trying to evict nearly 13 000 Shangani people in Chiredzi, Masvingo province, to pave way for a grass production entity. After public pressure, the planned lucerne grass project was halted.
According to Human Rights Watch, Local Government minister July Moyo on 26 February published a legal notice ordering the eviction of the indigenous people, occupying approximately 12 940 hectares of Chilonga communal land in Chiredzi, south-eastern Zimbabwe.
They were ordered to leave immediately unless they acquire fresh rights of use or occupation to that land. The legal notice, Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021, indicated that the land was being set aside for the production of lucerne grass which is used as stockfeed.